Gear is a constant consideration for a trip, for some its an obsession, for others it’s a burden. Somethings are truly necessary, and well, others just were never needed in the first place. There is a piece of gear I thought was unnecessary, until I started taking it with me everywhere, and realized the benefits of its continual use made it a mandatory item anytime I strayed off a paved path.
Trekking poles do more than just give your hands something to do, they provide valuable stability and safety. Turning yourself from a biped to a quadruped greatly reduces your chances of a slip, trip, or fall; which are the leading causes of injury sustained during backpacking/hiking. An even more favorable benefit is the stress it takes off of your legs/knees/ankles. Making your leg workout an arm workout. This helps alleviate damage that can occur from constant stress, often the case as hikers hammer down trails with added weight on their backs. With their continual use, I have actually noticed an improvement to the pain in my knees, even though I’m hiking more!
Getting your first pair doesn’t have to be an ordeal, any outdoor shop from your home town will be able to help you make a choice. Though the difference between “entry” level poles, and the advanced poles is minimal, the price of the poles will reflect less weight, not a stronger pole; greater cost could also deliver “features” such as folding poles instead of telescoping. If you aren’t interested in purchasing poles, or you are already on your vacation, the Bright Angel Bike Shop in the Grand Canyon sells trekking poles, and the Market Plaza rents them.
Adjusting the poles is simple enough as well. You want to have the trekking pole height set to a length that leaves your elbows at 90-degree angles. This is shown in the picture. This way as you traverse up and down on the trail, you won’t overextend your arm more in one way or the other. If you have a long section of up or down, you can adjust the poles to reflect that portion, but raising the height of the poles for your downhill and decreasing the height for your uphill.